Panama Pacific International Exposition 1915
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PPIE - Part 2 of 12
Illumination of the PPIE
Lighting was a new and important development that allowed fairs to remain open
after dark. At the Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), on newly
constructed ground, it was easy to install underground utilities. It was the
first fair to have its lighting planned in conjunction with the architecture.
More cards: another view of the Great Scintillator, an array of search lights;
the Electric Kaleidoscope inside the giant dome of the Palace of Horticulture;
the Tower of Jewels hung with 102,000 Novagems that moved with the breeze; the
floodlit exterior of the Palace of Fine Arts showing the new way to illuminate
architecture. Views of lighting at earlier fairs: the harsh arc lighting of
Chicago 1893; the Eiffel Tower outlined with bulbs, 1900 Paris; a film made by
Thomas Edison at the 1901 Buffalo fair; the 1904 St Louis fairgrounds were so
huge that lighting had to be concentrated in spots.
The Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE)
brought a new style of brightly lit displays and soft lighting on building
Then a picture of Walter D’Arcy Ryan, the first person to light Niagara Falls;
in 1907 he built an early version of the Scintillator for the 1909 Hudson-Fulton
The castle like tower Ryan had built for the Scintillator is still standing
at the Yacht Harbor. The organizers of the fair had doubts as to Ryan’s success
with his new style. Perhaps they had a backup plan.
The Scintillator utilized forty-eight 36 inch projectors with color screens.
Over 300 special effects were choreographed. The effects were different on clear
and foggy nights, so Ryan had railroad engines mounted to run at full throttle
and create fog and smoke.
The Nebulus Array in the Electric Kaleidoscope of the Palace of Horticulture was
made by painting the inside of the dome with reflective paint. When the lights
inside were played on the dome the view outside was animated with comets, butterflies, and more.
Novagems and the
Tower of Jewels
The Tower of Jewels: 435 feet high. After it was built Ryan announced he was
going to hang thousands of cut glass gems on it. Impossible! He studied the gems
and designed the style of cut he wanted used, 21-47 mm in diameter, mirror
backed and made in Austria. They were also used elsewhere in the fair. Smaller
jewels were sold as souvenirs. Laura showed a photo from Sunset magazine of
workers hanging jewels on the tower. She told that often Tower of Jewels
postcards have glitter applied to where the jewels hung. More Novagem displays
were seen at the New York and San Francisco fairs of 1939, but the idea of
hanging jewels on architecture did not catch on.
Novagems and the
Tower of Jewels
Ryan also designed lighting for other areas of the fair. The fountains of the
Rising and Setting Sun were glass with lights inside. The Court of Abundance had
a globe of glass with interior lights that created an eerie effect. Lights were
concealed in niches of the columns of colonnades for indirect effects.
Decorative standards were hung with ornate banners concealing two to seven arc
lights that illuminated architecture. Ryan coined his own term for the Palace of
Fine Arts lighting: Triple Moonlight!
When the applause quieted Laura answered questions, mostly about the jewels
themselves. Jay Stevens joined in the discussion. The jewels that actually were
on the tower are chipped and faded and coated with a greasy film; and they show
the Ryan name. Any jewels smaller than 21 millimeters are official souvenirs;
those with a dangling tag are also souvenirs. When Laura was finished Jay
Stevens brought up his laptop and slipped a disk in it. Movies taken at the
Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) appeared on the screen. The CDs
[DVDs?] are for sale on eBay from a reputable dealer.
PPIE - Part 3 (Panama
Pacific International Exposition)
Last updated: 11/06/2013 03:45:34 PM -0500
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